Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on March 28th that a new law limiting debt collections against deceased debtors and their families is now in effect. If an individual dies with an outstanding debt, collection agencies seeking to collect on the debt from next-of-kin or surviving family members must affirmatively inform them that they are not legally obligated to repay the debt. Specifically, no principal creditors and/or debt collection agencies can make any representation that a person is required to pay the debt of a family member in a way that contravenes with established fair debt collection practices.
"Grieving New Yorkers should not have to suffer the indignity and insult of being hounded by unscrupulous debt collectors," Governor Cuomo said. "This new law puts debt collectors in check and creates important consumer protections that make it clear that an individual's surviving family members are not obligated to pay their loved one's debts."
Recent reports have shown that debt collection companies have tried to use techniques to pressure relatives for payments. On occasion, they have even offered comfort to family members of the deceased in an effort to lure them into paying the outstanding debt. Under the amendment, debt collection companies cannot make any misrepresentation about the family's obligation to pay the debt.
New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the New York Division of Consumer Protection, said, "Dishonest companies are contacting grieving family members and pressuring them to pay debts they do not legally owe. This new law prohibits debt collectors from misleading consumers and holds them accountable for their actions."
Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said, "The debt collection industry has gone to great lengths to deceive and abuse grieving consumers just to make a quick buck. This new law will help root out these predatory practices by ensuring unscrupulous actors are no longer allowed to make any misrepresentations about a family member's obligation to pay the debts of a deceased loved one. I commend Governor Cuomo for providing these significant, new protections for financially struggling New Yorkers."
Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal said, "After struggling through the pain of losing a loved one, surviving family members should not be forced to endure the relentless bullying of misleading and predatory debt collectors. Here in New York, we will not tolerate this kind of behavior. Family members are not legally responsible to pay the outstanding debts of a deceased family member, and this legislation will help ensure that mourning family members know their rights and are not taken advantage of in their time of grief. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and protecting vulnerable consumers."
Consumers seeking to learn more or to file a complaint against an unscrupulous debt collector may contact the New York State Division of Consumer Protection Helpline at (800) 697-1220 or visit www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Consumer Assistance Hotline is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Division of Consumer Protection is on Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.